What is COPD and its symptoms?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs the airflow from the lungs. It usually develops slowly over the years and is most often caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, such as cigarette smoke. 

COPD refers to a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. The main two conditions are emphysema (damage to the air sacs in the lungs) and chronic bronchitis (long-term inflammation of the airways).

COPD is a common condition that mostly affects older adults who smoke. Their breathing problems tend to get gradually worse over time and can limit normal activities, although treatment can help keep the condition under control.

If you’re caring for an older adult who smokes and you’re concerned that he might be developing COPD, you can look for these common symptoms of COPD. They may not occur all of the time, but they will continue to get worse over the years if actions are not taken to eliminate or reduce the exposure his lungs are having to irritating elements. 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms:

  • A persistent cough. This cough, often called a smoker’s cough, is worse in the morning and is often
    Senior Home Care Katy, TX: Seniors and COPD

    Senior Home Care Katy, TX: Seniors and COPD

    accompanied by lots of phlegm. If you or your senior care provider have noticed an increase and persistence in this cough, whether your parent is ill or not, it could be a sign that he is developing COPD. 

  • Inability to catch his breath. If your parent is having a hard time catching his breath after routine activities such as going up and down the stairs or taking out the garbage, there might be cause for concern. If you have a senior care provider who routinely takes your parent out for walks, ask them how he is doing with his breathing while walking. He should be able to talk and walk at the same time. 
  • Frequent chest infections. One infection after another is often a sign of COPD. 
  • Persistent Wheezing. If you’ve noticed your parent is making more noise when breathing, especially if the noise is a wheezy type of sound, it’ll be good to check it out and see what is occurring. 
  • Swelling in the ankles, legs, and feet. This is caused by edema and a build-up of fluid. If his shoes are tighter than normal, he might have edema. 
  • Fatigue. It’s hard to not be tired when getting enough breath in is a struggle. If your parent is requesting more services from his senior care provider because he doesn’t have the energy anymore, your senior care provider will be happy to accommodate him, but it’ll also be imperative to have a doctor look into why your parent is feeling more fatigued. 

Sometimes there may be periods when your elderly parent’s symptoms get suddenly worse: this is known as a flare-up or exacerbation and can occur due to over-exertion or illness. It’s common to have a few flare-ups a year, particularly during the winter.

While there isn’t a cure for COPD, the sooner treatment can begin, the less chance there will be of permanent lung damage.

If you or an aging loved one are considering Senior Home Care in Katy, TX, contact the caring staff at Personal Caregiving Services at 832-564-0338. Providing Care in Houston, Bellaire, West University Place, Katy, and Sugar Land and the surrounding areas.

Sid Gerber